Restaurant of the Week: Tasty Pot, Rancho Cucamonga

Tasty Pot, 11540 4th St. (at Richmond Place), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

The influx of Asian Americans into Rancho Cucamonga continues to pay benefits, probably in somewhat invisible cultural ways, but visibly in more dining choices. A friend and I tried out the fairly new (open since May) Tasty Pot, a Taiwanese hot pot restaurant across from Ontario Mills.

Tasty Pot is a national chain, sort of, with 15 locations, most in California but with a few random states, like Ohio, having one lone locale. (Trivia note: There’s one in Ontario, Canada.) Ours is in the Signature Center, a few steps from a Panera and in what I believe used to be a bridal shop.

Inside, there’s a wall-length photo mural of what is presumably the Taipei skyline. The place was about two-thirds full when we arrived. We were the only white people, a good sign.

Soup is the thing to get. Each soup had around a dozen ingredients listed, many of them duplicated from one to the next. You could probably spend a lunch hour reading them all and trying to differentiate one from the next. They all appeared to have at least one type of seafood, if not several.

We just went with ones with appealing main ingredients: kimchi dumpling ($13, above) and lamb with noodle ($13, below), sharing them. We got the small size and mild spice level.

The pots arrived and were placed on a portable stovetop, burners turned on to keep the soup hot. A pitcher of broth would be brought by now and then for a refill.

We liked our soups, with the dumplings being a nice addition. The kitchen was generous with the ingredients, whether noodles, tofu, shrimp, cabbage, mussels, mushrooms or more.

One welcome touch was that our lunches came with complimentary iced tea. When have you ever seen that? We also got milk tea ($5-$5.50).

Neither of us is really a hot pot enthusiast, but sharing two made for a light, filling lunch.

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Column: Stones rocked SB student journalist’s world

As promised — or threatened? — I return to the subject of the Rolling Stones in San Bernardino on the anniversary of their second concert at Swing Auditorium, Oct. 31, 1964. This has an interesting angle, as a teen who covered the concert, and interviewed the band, for the San Bernardino Sun went on to become a well-regarded rock journalist. I tell that story in Wednesday’s column.

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Column: Shirley La Verne appreciates this joke

A banner next to a La Verne entry monument features Penny Marshall in her sweater as TV character…must I tell you? That item leads off Friday’s column, trailed by the closing of a Starbucks, an event Saturday in Pomona about the long-missing time capsule at which yours truly will be among the presenters, a few words about the “sea of slobs” surrounding Claremont and more.

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Restaurant of the Week: Tokyo Joe’s

Tokyo Joe’s, 10877 Foothill Blvd. (at Spruce), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Tokyo Joe’s is a small chain of fast-casual Japanese(-ish) restaurants with California locations only in Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga. The latter opened in 2017 in a strip of restaurants near the office buildings east of Haven Avenue that has Luna Mediterranean Grill, The Habit, Cafe Rio and Jersey Mike’s.

I ate at Joe’s recently for the first time, meeting a friend for lunch on a weekday. Their main items are bowls, although they also have salads, poke bowls and some made-to-order sushi. See their menu here.

I got the MoJoe Bowl ($9, above), with chicken, pineapple, carrots, egg, onion, green and red peppers and rice, substituting brown for white at no extra charge, which was welcome. My friend got the Mahi-Mahi Bowl ($11.25, below), with wild mahi-mahi, tropical salsa, lemongrass aioli, teriyaki sauce, macadamia nuts and cilantro.

“It was a bowlish bowl,” my friend said with an implied shrug, “with a nice piece of mahi-mahi.”

I wasn’t dissatisfied with my bowl either, but neither of us walked away with any particular enthusiasm. You can order a larger bowl for $2 more, which would be good only if you want to take some home. We could barely finish ours as it was and before mine was done I was tired of eating it.

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Banned books (that you can check out)

The Pomona Public Library is displaying some occasionally banned books — which aren’t banned in Pomona. Above is the display near the reference desk and computer lab; below is what’s seen near the teen section. Patrons have asked the staff if they can take any of the books out of the display and check them out. The answer is yes.

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Column: Mexican Players are again in the spotlight

An event in Pomona on Saturday will be devoted to the legacy of the Mexican Players, who performed at Padua Hills Theatre from 1931 to 1974, making it the longest-running Mexican American theater in the nation. As legacies go, though, it’s a complicated one, which I try to unpack in Friday’s column. It’s a historical/cultural subject I’ve avoided for years, and we’ll see from the response if I should have avoided it a while longer. Above, a Mexican Players promotional photo, provided by the Historical Society of Pomona Valley, the event organizer.

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Restaurant of the Week: Tropical Mexico

Tropical Mexico, 1371 S. East End Ave. (at Grand), Pomona; open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Tropical Mexico opened in 1967, making it almost certainly Pomona’s oldest extant Mexican restaurant, and one of the oldest in the area. It’s located off in the hinterlands in an industrial stretch. You may think you’ve been misdirected until, rounding a bend, suddenly you find a restaurant. Next door is a pallet yard, pallets stacked in towers as if laid in for lean times.

I’d been to Trop Mex, as regulars call it, just once, in 2006, although I’m a fan of Mexico Lindo south of downtown Pomona, until recently owned by the same family. A friend wanted to eat at Trop Mex and three of us joined him.

The parking lot is so expansive, with a circular layout, that one leg of the lot has its own stop sign.

Inside, the layout and feel are different than the more rustic, semi-outdoor experience of my memory. A friend who’s been eating there for decades told me later that indeed, the restaurant used to be “darker, smaller, seedier,” with an open patio and a lot of paintings on velvet. (The classic of dogs playing poker, he assured me, is still on view, a boon for art lovers.)

Today there are two dining rooms. We were in the main one, with a high ceiling, skylight, tiled floors, paintings of Mexican Independence figures and murals.

The menu seems the same as Mexico Lindo’s, with breakfasts, seafood, leaning toward plates rather than a la carte items, and with beer. Chips, warm and fresh, and salsa were delivered to our table.

The friend who invited us got a chicken burrito ($7.15), enchilada style ($2.75), seen above. Our vegan friend didn’t find much on the menu but got two potato tacos, below ($5.84). “Not many choices for a vegan, but they were accommodating,” she said.

A third got a shrimp burrito ($9.90), below. He praised it as “shrimp-tastic,” adding, “They were not stingy with the shrimp.”

Lastly, I got the steak picado plate, which came with rice and beans ($14.76) as well as soup or salad; I got the albondigas soup.

The soup was fine. I have to say, my steak picado was a bit fatty and gristly, the “Mexican” rice was dry and the beans were gluey. I’ve had a much better version of this plate (and for $9.65, or $5.11 cheaper, albeit without soup or salad) at El Patron in Rancho Cucamonga.

The friend who invited us and got the chicken burrito said: “Perfectly delicious, but there are perfectly delicious places closer to my house. What appeals to me is the murals. I wouldn’t come back just for the food, but there’s the ambiance.”

My absent friend, the one who’s been eating here for years, told me something similar. He said he’d give the food a B-minus, but that he has had birthday dinners here regardless because the space can accommodate groups small and large, and there’s just something about the restaurant’s feel and its obscure location that are appealing.

I get it entirely. There’s no place in the valley quite like Trop Mex.

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